BABA Banda Singh Bahadar, the great disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, rose up in arms against tyranny in the footsteps of his master to defend and safeguard humanity. He treaded the glorious path of supreme sacrifice and kept aloft the ‘flame of liberty’ burning bright with his fortitude and sacrifice in the face of untold misery and torture.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadar was born in Rajouri. He settled on the banks of the Godavri, near Nanded. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh met him. Banda ‘Bairagi’, as he came to be known, was greatly impressed by the 10th Guru and took Pahul from him. He was ordered by the master to go back to Punjab and help the people of the state to fight against atrocities and also avenge the most brutal and unjust killings of Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh.
Banda Bahadar reached Punjab in 1709 and established his capital at Mukhlisgarh, a place on the border of Nahan in Himachal and Jagadhri in Haryana. In reverence to the hukamnama of Guru Gobind Singh, many disciples of the Guru came under his command to fight against the Mughal rule in Punjab. Baba Banda Singh Bahadar attacked Samana and put Sayyed Jalaludin, the executioner of Guru Teg Bahadar, to death. His brothers — Sashal Beg and Bashal Beg — were the executioners of the younger Sahibzadas, who also lived at Samana. Baba Banda Singh Bahadar also attacked Sadhaura and took revenge from the Mughal chief Usmaan Khan and his accomplices responsible for the death of Pir Budhu Shah and his family.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadar, after capturing Banur, marched towards Sirhind and defeated Subedar Wazir Khan in Chapar Chiri, near the present-day town of Landran. It was on May, 1710, that Wazir Khan was killed in a fierce battle. Thereafter, he captured Sirhind and avenged the death of the innocent Sahibzadas. He issued a coin in the name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. He also abolished the system of zamindari and gave land to the actual tillers. Thus, he became the Messiah of the downtrodden and small farmers.
He was chased by Mughal chiefs. Emperor Bahadar Shah had to command the army himself against Banda Bahadar. From Mukhlisgarh, he escaped but ultimately was captured along with 700 dedicated Sikhs at Gurdas Nangal, near Gurdaspur, after a siege for months together. They were taken to Delhi where they were tortured to death in 1716 near the Kutab Minar. They were lured to temptations but the brave Sikhs rejected all offers and embraced martyrdom without apology or remorse. Baba Banda Singh Bahadar was put to untold mental and physical torture. His wife and five-year-old son Ajai Singh were hacked to death.
It was in June, 1716, that he was cut limb by limb and his flesh was torn apart from his body. He neither aplogised nor did he show agony in the face of untold misery. The events were recorded not only by Muslim historians like Khafi Khan, Mohammed Harisi and Mohammed Kasim Lahori but also by East India Company officials John Sarman, Edward Stephenson and Hugh Barker, who sent reports to Governor Robert Hadges at Fort William at Calcutta.
Rabindra Nath Tagore gave a befitting tribute to Banda Singh Bahadar in his poem entitled Bandi Bir in Bengali. As a tribute to the victor of Sirhind on his martyrdom. the poem eulogises him as great warrior and true disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. This poem became the anthem for the revolutionaries of Bengal, especially during the freedom struggle of India. But it is an irony of fate that until today the great warrior did not get due recognition in Punjab itself. Today we hardly celebrate the first-ever victory of the Sikhs at Sirhind to commemorate his death anniversary. It speaks volumes of our apathy that one wonders if even a fraction of the Punjabis know or can locate the battlefield of Chapar Chiri, just 10 km from Chandigarh.
It is high time that the
government in pursuance of its policy to identify and glorify the rich
heritage of Punjab considers to give the required recognition to the
battlefields of Chapar Chiri and Gurdas Nangal by declaring these
places as national monuments. Such historical places, including
Fatehgarh Sahib, Morinda, Chamkaur Sahib, Roopnagar and Kiratpur Sahib
right up to Anandpur Sahib, should be developed as heritage tourism